Anguish, defiance, stoicism, acceptance and fear.

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Bloody Sunday was a series of killings of members of the German minority that took place at the beginning of World War II. On September 3, 1939, two days after the beginning of the German invasion of Poland, highly controversial killings occurred in and around Bydgoszcz (German: Bromberg), a Polish city with a sizable German minority. The number of casualties and other details of the incident are disputed among historians.

The sequence started with an attack of German Selbstschutz snipers on retreating Polish troops and then was followed by a Polish reaction and then the final retaliatory execution of Polish hostages by the Wehrmacht and Selbstschutz, after the fall of the city. All these events resulted in the deaths of both German and Polish civilians. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance found and confirmed 254 Lutheran victims, assumed to be German victims, and 86 Catholic victims, assumed to be Polish civilians, as well as 20 Polish soldiers. Approximately 600–800 Polish hostages were shot in a mass execution in the aftermath of the fall of the city.

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The Nazis exploited the deaths as grounds for a massacre of Polish inhabitants after the Wehrmacht captured the town. In an act of retaliation for the killings on Bloody Sunday, a number of Polish civilians were executed by German military units of the Einsatzgruppen, Waffen SS, and Wehrmacht.

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According to German historian Christian Raitz von Frentz, 876 Poles were tried by German tribunal for involvement in the events of Bloody Sunday before the end of 1939. 87 men and 13 women were sentenced without the right to appeal. Polish historian Czesław Madajczyk notes 120 executions in relation to Bloody Sunday, and the execution of 20 hostages after a German soldier was allegedly attacked by a Polish sniper.

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One picture of the executions gives the whole range of attitudes and emotions that went through the minds of those facing the firing squad. It’s interesting to see the range of emotions displayed by these men. Anguish, defiance, stoicism, acceptance and fear, the third one from the left is even smiling.

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The Fuzzy Wuzzy angels-Forgotten Heroes.

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During the war in Papua New Guinea, the local population who were sympathetic to the Australian troops would assist where they could. Notably they would help in transporting stores and equipment over the rough terrain. Teams carried seriously wounded and sick Australian soldiers all the way back to their bases. Their compassion and care of the casualties earned them admiration and respect from the Australians, who dubbed these men their fuzzy wuzzy angels. The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels were named for both their frizzy curly hair and helpful role.

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In 1942, during the Pacific invasion, the Japanese had built up a force of 13,500 in the Gona region of Papua with the intention of invading Port Moresby. The key to the offensive was an overland trail across the Owen Stanley Ranges. The trail ranged from the small village of Buna on the north coast of Papua and went up the slopes through Gorari and Oivi to Kokoda. The trail was approximately 100 miles (160 km) long, folded into a series of ridges, rising higher and to 7,000 feet (2,100 m) and then declining again to 3,000 feet (910 m). It was covered in thick jungle, short trees and tall trees tangled with vines.

On 29 August 1942, the Japanese task force broke through the Australian line forcing the Australians to retreat further back to Templeton’s Crossing. Eventually, the Australians were forced to retreat to Myola.

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650 Australian lives were lost in the campaign. It is speculated that this number would have been much larger had it not been for the help of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. As one Australian digger has noted:

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“They carried stretchers over seemingly impassable barriers, with the patient reasonably comfortable. The care they give to the patient is magnificent. If night finds the stretcher still on the track, they will find a level spot and build a shelter over the patient. They will make him as comfortable as possible fetch him water and feed him if food is available, regardless of their own needs. They sleep four each side of the stretcher and if the patient moves or requires any attention during the night, this is given instantly. These were the deeds of the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ – for us!”

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No known injured soldier that was still alive was ever abandoned by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, even during heavy combat.

An Australian soldier, George “Dick” Whittington, is aided by Papuan orderly Raphael Oimbari, at the Battle of Buna-Gona. Whittington died in February 1943 from the effects of bush typhus, this little-known killer of many Allied and Japanese soldiers in the Pacific.

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In July 2007, grandsons of Australian World War II soldiers and grandsons of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels took part in the “Kokoda Challenge”

The last known Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Havala Laula, 91.

In June 2008, Australian senator Guy Barnett called for his country’s Parliament to give official recognition to Papua New Guineans’ courage and contributions to the war effort: “I was stunned to learn that Australia has not officially recognized these wonderful PNG nationals who saved the lives of Australian servicemen. They carried stretchers, stores and sometimes wounded diggers directly on their shoulders over some of the toughest terrain in the world. Without them I think the Kokoda campaign would have been far more difficult than it was”. The government agreed to consider the motion. Recognition may entail a medal, a small ex gratia payment, and additional Australian aid to improve people’s education and health in villages near the Kokoda trail.

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The miracle of Saipan

In a photo that somehow comprises both tenderness and horror, an American Marine cradles a near-dead infant pulled from under a rock while troops cleared Japanese fighters and civilians from caves on Saipan in the summer of 1944.

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The child was the only person found alive among hundreds of corpses in one cave. The battle for the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II is one of those well-remembered battles between Japan and America, one made worse by the mass suicide of local Japanese civilians who jumped off cliffs, fearful of capture by the Americans.

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The Americans declared Saipan “secure” on July 9 1944, after a battle that obliterated the 30,000-strong Japanese garrison and killed up to 12,000 of the local Chamorro and Carolinian islanders and Japanese civilian settlers on the island.

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Excuse me I am Chinese,not Japanese!

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World War II brought momentous change to America’s Chinese community. For decades, Chinese were vilified in America, especially in California, the center of the U.S.’s anti-Chinese feelings. The Chinese had initially come to California for the Gold Rush and later the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, but public sentiment quickly turned against them. Competition for jobs and a depression in the 1870s all led to a racist backlash against Chinese. Eventually Chinese immigration was ended with the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese in America found themselves a hated minority segregated in Chinatowns. The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 changed all of that.

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After Pearl Harbor perceptions of China and Chinese Americans were suddenly transformed. China went from being known as the “sick man of Asia” to a vital ally in the United States’ war against the Japanese. Likewise, Chinese went from the “heathen Chinese” to friends. In 1943 a congressman said if not for December 7, America might have never known how good Chinese Americans were.

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Motivated by fear and indignation, Chinese Americans also tried to distinguish themselves as much as possible from the Japanese and “prove their undivided loyalty to the American war effort”. Mere days after Pearl Harbor, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco started issuing identification cards, and Chinese Americans began wearing buttons and badges with phrases like “I am Chinese” on them. Hoping to prove their loyalty to the United States beyond any doubt, Chinese periodicals also adopted the inflammatory anti-Japanese rhetoric and racial epithets used by the mainstream press.

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Although there was some sentiment of pan-Asian solidarity, it was definitely not the norm. Chinese Americans, fueled by anger at Japanese aggression in their home country, their American patriotism, and their desire to be seen as American patriots, were, consciously or not, complicit in the persecution of their Japanese neighbors.

The internment of the Japanese was more or less ignored by the Chinese community, with the exception of a few individuals. In fact, Chinese periodicals also participated in spreading the belief that Japanese Americans were guilty of treason or aiding Japan .
Japanese internment actually presented an opportunity for economic and social advancement to the Chinese. Chinese merchants moved into formerly Japanese-owned businesses. And when the Japanese were removed from their farm jobs, the United States Employment Service issued a call for Chinese Americans to replace them.

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World War II was an opportunity for the Chinese to gain economic and social standing in mainstream American society; however, the shift in white America’s perceptions of the Chinese Americans must also be remembered as a consequence of racist attitudes directed towards the Japanese Americans and the ensuing internment of a whole ethnicity. Tides quickly shifted after World War II, when the United States declared another war, this time on communism. Power, given rather suddenly to the Chinese during the war, was just as quickly taken away afterwards.

Amin al-Husseini-The Führer’s Palestinian friend.

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Mohammed Amin al-Husseini  was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim leader in Mandatory Palestine.

Al-Husseini used his influence and ties with the Germans to promote Arab nationalism in Iraq. He was among the key promoters of the pan-Arab Al-Muthanna Club, and supported the coup d’état by Rashid Ali in April 1941. The situation of Iraq’s Jews rapidly deteriorated, with extortions and sometimes murders taking place.When the Anglo-Iraqi War broke out, al-Husseini used his influence to issue a fatwa for a holy war against Britain. As the British advanced on the capital, the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad,where over 180 Jews were killed and 1,000 injured)

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led by members of the Al-Muthanna Club, which had served as a conduit for German propaganda funding, erupted in June 1941, following the Iraqi defeat and the collapse of Rashid Ali’s government. The pogrom was rooted in antisemitic incitement during the preceding decade against the backdrop of the conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine.

When the war failed for the Iraqis—given its paucity, German and Italian assistance played a negligible role in the war al-Husseini escaped to Persia (together with Rashid Ali), where he was granted legation asylum first by Japan, and then by Italy. On 8 October, after the occupation of Persia by the Allies and after the new Persian government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi severed diplomatic relations with the Axis powers.

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Al-Husseini was taken under Italian protection and conveyed through Turkey to Axis Europe in an operation organized by Italian Military Intelligence (Servizio Informazioni Militari, or SIM).

Al-Husseini arrived in Rome on 10 October 1941. He outlined his proposals before Alberto Ponce de Leon. On condition that the Axis powers ‘recognize in principle the unity, independence, and sovereignty, of an Arab state, including Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Transjordan’, he offered support in the war against Britain and stated his willingness to discuss the issues of ‘the Holy Places, Lebanon, the Suez Canal, and Aqaba’. The Italian foreign ministry approved al-Husseini’s proposal, recommended giving him a grant of one million lire, and referred him to Benito Mussolini, who met al-Husseini on 27 October. According to al-Husseini’s account, it was an amicable meeting in which Mussolini expressed his hostility to the Jews and Zionism.

Back in the summer of 1940 and again in February 1941, al-Husseini submitted to the Nazi German Government a draft declaration of German-Arab cooperation, containing a clause:

Germany and Italy recognize the right of the Arab countries to solve the question of the Jewish elements, which exist in Palestine and in the other Arab countries, as required by the national and ethnic (völkisch) interests of the Arabs, and as the Jewish question was solved in Germany and Italy.

Encouraged by his meeting with the Italian leader, al-Husseini prepared a draft declaration, affirming the Axis support for the Arabs on 3 November. In three days, the declaration, slightly amended by the Italian foreign ministry, received the formal approval of Mussolini and was forwarded to the German embassy in Rome. On 6 November, al-Husseini arrived in Berlin, where he discussed the text of his declaration with Ernst von Weizsäcker and other German officials. In the final draft, which differed only marginally from al-Husseini’s original proposal, the Axis powers declared their readiness to approve the elimination (Beseitigung) of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.

On 20 November, al-Husseini met the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and was officially received by Adolf Hitler on 28 November.

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He asked Adolf Hitler for a public declaration that ‘recognized and sympathized with the Arab struggles for independence and liberation, and that would support the elimination of a national Jewish homeland’.Hitler refused to make such a public announcement, saying that it would strengthen the Gaullists against the Vichy France,but asked al-Husseini ‘to lock …deep in his heart’ the following points, which American Historian Christopher Browning summarizes as follows, that

‘Germany has resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the other to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time, direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well’. When Germany had defeated Russia and broken through the Caucasus into the Middle East, it would have no further imperial goals of its own and would support Arab liberation… But Hitler did have one goal. “Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power”. (Das deutsche Ziel würde dann lediglich die Vernichtung des im arabischen Raum unter der Protektion der britischen Macht lebenden Judentums sein). In short, Jews were not simply to be driven out of the German sphere but would be hunted down and destroyed even beyond it’

A separate record of the meeting was made by Fritz Grobba, who until recently had been the German ambassador to Iraq. His version of the crucial words reads “when the hour of Arab liberation comes, Germany has no interest there other than the destruction of the power protecting the Jews”.Al-Husseini’s own account of this point, as recorded in his diary, is very similar to Grobba’s. According to Amin’s account, however, when Hitler expounded his view that the Jews were responsible for World War I, Marxism and its revolutions, and this was why the task of Germans was to persevere in a battle without mercy against the Jews, he replied: “We Arabs think that Zionism, not the Jews, is the cause of all of these acts of sabotage.”

In December 1942, al-Husseini held a speech at the celebration of the opening of the Islamic Central Institute (Islamisches Zentralinstitut) in Berlin, of which he served as honorary chair.

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In the speech, he harshly criticised those he considered as aggressors against Muslims, namely “Jews, Bolsheviks and Anglo-Saxons.” At the time of the opening of the Islamic Central Institute, there were an estimated 3,000 Muslims in Germany, including 400 German converts. The Islamic Central Institute gave the Muslims in Germany institutional ties to the ‘Third Reich’

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Much of the case against Husseini’s role in The Holocaust emerged in the immediate aftermath of WW2, with those collecting evidence working for the Jewish Agency in the context of an intensive public relations exercise to establish a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.Husseini has been described by the American Jewish Congress as “Hitler’s henchman”and some scholars, such as Schwanitz and Rubin, have argued that Husseini made the Final Solution inevitable by shutting out the possibility of Jews escaping to Palestine.

 

Although some historians have questioned al-Husseini’s knowledge of the Holocaust while it was in progress, Wolfgang G. Schwanitz notes that in his memoirs Husseini recalled that Heinrich Himmler, in the summer of 1943, while confiding some German war secrets, inveighed against Jewish “war guilt”, and revealed the ongoing extermination (in Arabic, abadna) of the Jews.

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Gilbert Achcar, referring to this meeting with Himmler, observes:

The Mufti was well aware that the European Jews were being wiped out; he never claimed the contrary. Nor, unlike some of his present-day admirers, did he play the ignoble, perverse, and stupid game of Holocaust denial… . His amour-propre would not allow him to justify himself to the Jews… .gloating that the Jews had paid a much higher price than the Germans… he cites… : ‘Their losses in the Second World War represent more than thirty percent of the total number of their people …’. Statements like this, from a man who was well placed to know what the Nazis had done … constitute a powerful argument against Holocaust deniers. Husseini reports that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler … told him in summer 1943 that the Germans had ‘already exterminated more than three million’ Jews: “I was astonished by this figure, as I had known nothing about the matter until then.” … Thus. in 1943, Husseini knew about the genocide.

In November 1943 the Mufti declared.

It is the duty of Muhammadans [Muslims] in general and Arabs in particular to … drive all Jews from Arab and Muhammadan countries… . Germany is also struggling against the common foe who oppressed Arabs and Muhammadans in their different countries. It has very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution [endgültige Lösung] for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.

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June Ravenhall- Forgotten Hero

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I often ask myself the question “Would I risk mu own life to save another?” and the honest answer is “I don’t know” I think I would but when it comes to it I don’t know.

However there are so many in History who asked themselves that same question. One of these brave souls was June Ravenhall.

Ravenhall was born Elsie June Stickley in 1901. She was a native of Kenilworth who moved to The Hague with her husband, Leslie Ravenhall, whom she married in 1925.The couple left Coventry for the Netherlands due to Les Ravenhall’s business, and started a business importing Coventry Eagle motorbikes.

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Their house and business were expropriated when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. As a British citizen, and since Britain was then in war with Germany, June’s husband was sent to a prison camp in Poland, and she relocated to Hilversum.

Mrs Ravenhall was approached by the Dutch Resistance and asked to hide a young Jewish journalist called Levi(Louis) Velleman. She agreed and he lived with the family for three years.

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When, in the summer of 1942, the first orders were issued for Jews of the Netherlands to report for “work in the East”, Levi Velleman, born in 1919 in Haarlem, was in a hospital in Hilversum (prov. North-Holland) with tuberculosis.
As not enough Jews did report, the Germans started to round up Jews. As Velleman was a well-known journalist and radio reporter in the Netherlands going by the less Jewish sounding name of Louis., he feared that he would be sought too. He thus turned to one of the physicians in the hospital who contacted the adjacent recuperation center asking if someone there could take him into hiding. June Ravenhall, who was living in the immediate vicinity of this center, came forward even though she had some initial hesitation to take in a person with a contagious disease. June had the lone responsibility for her three young teenage children after her husband Leslie had been arrested. Both originally from Britain, they had come to live in The Hague where Leslie had found a business opportunity importing motorbikes. Three days after the capitulation of the Netherlands in May 1940, Leslie was taken as a prisoner of war to a camp in Germany, where he remained until the liberation some five years later.

June gave Louis Velleman the room of her oldest daughter, where he stayed all the time. Since sunshine was considered favorable for healing, Louis sat in the garden when the weather was nice and June thought that there was no immediate danger. However, when the Germans learned that many Jews were in hiding in the town of Hilversum, many house searches were carried out, among them in the Ravenhall home. The Ravenhall children were well instructed to keep the Jew hunters delayed for awhile, so that Louis could get into his hiding area. Once he escaped by jumping out of a window at the back of the house. When the policeman found some men’s clothing and confronted June with it, she feared immediate arrest. It turned out that the policeman had only come to warn her of a pending house search.

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The winter of 1944-1945 was especially difficult in the western parts of the Netherlands, as food supplies from the rural eastern parts of the country were forcefully stopped by the occupier. Moreover, there was no electricity or gas. Many Dutch had to survive on flower bulbs and many more died of starvation. The Ravenhall family could not support an extra mouth, and thus Louis was taken to Wieger and Sijbrig Beks, living close-by, who were able to feed him. Once a week, Louis ate at the Beks: “I could eat in one day more than during the entire week with the Ravenhalls”.

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The Beks were heavily involved in a local resistance cell, among other things by delivering false identity papers to Jews in hiding in the area.
Louis Velleman survived the war thanks to June and the Beks. He stayed in touch with all until his passing in 2000.

 

Samuel Morgenstern-The Jewish Business man who bought Hitler’s art.

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Samuel Morgenstern, an Austrian businessman and a business partner of the young Hitler in his Vienna period, bought many of the young Hitler’s paintings. According to Morgenstern, Hitler came to him for the first time in the beginning of the 1910s, either in 1911 or in 1912. When Hitler came to Morgenstern’s glazier store for the first time, he offered Morgenstern three of his paintings. Morgenstern kept a database of his clientele, through which it had been possible to locate the buyers of young Hitler’s paintings. It is found that the majority of the buyers were Jewish. An important client of Morgenstern, a prosecuting lawyer by the name of Josef Feingold,another Jewish Business man, bought a series of paintings by Hitler depicting old Vienna.

 

Samuel Morgenstern was born in Budapest in 1875. In 1903 he opened his glazier store with a workshop in the back at 4 Liechtenstein-strasse near downtown Vienna, quite close to Sigmund Freud’s practice and apartment.

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In 1904 he married Emma Pragan, a Jew from Vienna.

In a deposition he made from memory in 1937, Morgenstern stated that Hitler had come to his store for the first time in 1911 or 1912, offering him three paintings, historical views in the style of Rudolf von Alt. Morgenstern had also sold pictures in his frame and glazier store, “since in my experience it is easier to sell frames if they contain pictures.

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After the annexation of Austria in March 1938 as leader of the “Greater German Empire,” Mr. and Mrs.Morgenstern’s destiny made a turn for the worst. In the fall of 1938 their stores, fully stocked warehouse, and workshop were “Aryanized” and taken over by a National Socialist. The “purchase price,” which was set at 620 marks, was never paid. Because Morgenstern also lost his commercial license, he was no longer allowed to work. Thus the couple- sixty-three and fifty-nine years old, respectively-had no income whatever, and what is more: they could not leave the country, because they did not have the money either for the trip or for the obligatory “Reich flight tax,” or for the required visa.

In this desperate situation Samuel Morgenstern saw only one way out: asking the Fuhrer personally for help, just as Dr. Bloch,Bloch was the physician of Adolf Hitler’s family, in Linz did around that time.

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Considering that Hitler immediately responded to Bloch’s request, Morgenstern’s hope for the Fuhrer to intervene and save his life was certainly not absurd, as long as the letter reached Hitler.

Morgenstern’s letter went on the following journey: mailed in Vienna on August 11, it arrived in Hider’s secretary’s office at the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden on August 12 and was forwarded from there to the “Fuhrer’s Chancellery” in Berlin on August 14, where it was opened on August 15. This is where the marginal note “Jew!” must have been added. In any case, the secretary’s office did not hand the letter to Hider but returned it to Vienna on August 19 however, not to the sender but to the Finance Ministry, where it was filed away and forgotten for the next fifty-six years.

The invasion of Poland began on September 1, 1939, and with it World War II. The Morgensterns waited fruitlessly for help from Hitler, but a short time later their house was taken from them. They had to relocate to a kind of Jewish ghetto in Leopoldstadt. From there, on October 28, 1941, they were deported to the Litzmannstadt ghetto in the Reich district of Wartheland. The deportation order was stamped, in red ink, “To Poland.”

The Morgensterns were among 25,000 Jews deported to Litzmannstadt(AKA Lodz) from Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Luxembourg.

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Samuel Morgenstern died of exhaustion in the ghetto of Litzmannstadt in August 1943. He was sixty-eight years old. He was buried in the ghetto cemetery. As an eyewitness, Emma’s brother-in-law Wilhelm Abeles, a former glazier in Vienna, was to report later on, his wife was with him until the end.

Emma Morgenstern must have been deported to Auschwitz by August 1944, for on August 30 only a “cleaning-up commando” of six hundred men and a few people in hiding remained in the ghetto. Most new arrivals-above all, old women unable to work-were immediately sent to the gas chamber .

 

 

Hugo’s box

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These were once the toys, clothing and medicine of Hugo Steenmeijer, the child of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother.

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When Japan occupied the Dutch East Indies in 1942, his father was sent to work as a forced labourer on the Burma Railway.

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The Japanese imprisoned Europeans in internment camps. The 150,000 people native to the country, but with ties to the Dutch like Hugo’s mother, were left to their fate. As so-called buitenkampers (those outside the camps) they were extremely vulnerable.

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Because of their loyalty to the Dutch the Japanese often made their lives miserable and they also felt threatened by groups of native rebels set on Independence. Hugo’s mother struggled to survive in the city of Surabaya with her young son. After the war his father returned. But given Hugo was so frail, he died in 1947. Along with their two younger children, the couple left for the Netherlands in 1950. For years and years this box containing Hugo’s belongings was off-limits to everyone. When Hugo’s siblings finally decided to open this small chest after the death of their parents, they found something of Hugo’s long lost life inside.

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The Spanish Republicans in Nazi Concentration camps

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The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was the bloodiest conflict western Europe had experienced since the end of World War I in 1918.

It was the breeding ground for mass atrocities. About 200,000 people died as the result of systematic killings, mob violence, torture, or other brutalities.

The fighting displaced millions of Spaniards. Some 500,000 refugees fled in 1939 to France, where many of them would be interned in camps. 15,000 Spanish Republicans ended up in Nazi concentration camps after 1940.

The Spanish Civil War began on July 17, 1936, when generals Emilio Mola and Francisco Franco launched an uprising aimed at overthrowing the country’s democratically elected republic.The Nationalist rebels’ initial efforts to instigate military revolts throughout Spain only partially succeeded. In rural areas with a strong right-wing political presence, Franco’s confederates generally won out.

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They quickly seized political power and instituted martial law. In other areas, particularly cities with strong leftist political traditions, the revolts met with stiff opposition and were often quelled. Some Spanish officers remained loyal to the Republic and refused to join the uprising.

Faced with potential defeat, Franco called upon Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy for aid. Thanks to their military assistance, he was able to airlift troops from Spanish Morocco across to the mainland to continue his assault on Madrid. Throughout the three years of the conflict, Hitler and Mussolini provided the Spanish Nationalist Army with crucial military support.

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When the Civil War ended in 1939, with Franco’s victory, some 500,000 Spanish Republicans escaped to France, where many were placed in internment camps in the south, such as Gurs, St. Cyprien, and Les Milles.

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Following the German defeat of France in spring 1940, Nazi authorities conscripted Spanish Republicans for forced labor and deported more than 30,000 to Germany, where about half of them ended up in concentration camps.because of their anti-Fascist or Communist political affiliation. They were called the Red Spaniards (Rotspanier) because Red was the color of the Communists.

The Mauthausen concentration camp was the main place where Spanish political prisoners were incarcerated by the Nazis.

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By 1941, three years after the main camp opened, 60% of the prisoners were Spanish Republicans.

Up until August 1940, the German and Austrian common-law criminals were the Kapos at Mauthausen; they were assigned to supervise the other prisoners and would typically beat them for the slightest infraction of the rules while the SS guards looked the other way. The Spanish Republicans began to arrive in the camp on August 6th and 9th, 1940; gradually they took over the key positions in the camp from the German Kapos.

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Up until August 1940, the German and Austrian common-law criminals were the Kapos at Mauthausen; they were assigned to supervise the other prisoners and would typically beat them for the slightest infraction of the rules while the SS guards looked the other way. The Spanish Republicans began to arrive in the camp on August 6th and 9th, 1940; gradually they took over the key positions in the camp from the German Kapos.

The anti-Fascist Spaniards were well organized; they were the only cohesive group in the camp, held together by their political beliefs. Later, when the Communist Czechs and French resistance fighters arrived, they joined forces with the Red Spaniards to dominate the camp. The German criminals had no solidarity and did not act as a group, so they did not remain in control

The majority of the Spanish prisoners at Mauthausen worked in the quarries, but some had administrative jobs. Among the later group were Antonio Garcia Alonso and Francesco Boix Campo,. Boix was sent to Mauthausen on January 27, 1941. Because of his facility with German, Boix initially worked as a translator in the camp,but later also became a photographer.

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Garcia arrived in Mauthausen on April 7, 1941. Because he was a trained photographer, Garcia was assigned to work in the camp’s photo lab, Erkennungsdienst.

 

The SS photographer Kornacz was the only one who took photographs, but he employed inmates to handle the developing, printing and filing of the photo archive. Kornacz was assigned to take mug shots of arriving prisoners and to photograph official visits to the camp as well as the bodies of prisoners who died.

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He instructed his assistants to print five copies of each photograph: one for the camp archive and one each to be sent to Berlin, Oranienburg, Vienna and Linz.

 

Before Garcia’s arrival in the lab, a Polish prisoner named Grabowski, began developing a sixth print of key photographs, which he hid behind a wooden beam in the ceiling. After Garcia became responsible for developing film and enlarging photographs, he and Grabowski began compiling a secret photo archive.

In 1944 Grabowski committed suicide, and in February 1945 Garcia fell seriously ill and was taken to the camp infirmary where he remained for over a month. Upon his return, he discovered that the secret archive was missing. He questioned Boix, who was the only other person having any knowledge of the archive. Boix admitted that he had taken the photographs, but he said that they were now in the hands of the camp’s Spanish Communist underground. Garcia, though sympathetic to Communism, was accused by some of Trotskyism and was not part of the underground’s inner circle. Garcia was furious, but there was little he could do. He continued to work with Boix saving key photographs, even after Camp Commandant Franz Ziereis ordered the destruction of all negatives during the last week of the war.

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The Spanish Communist underground temporarily hid Garcia’s photos in several locales within the administrative complex of the camp while looking for a safer hiding place outside of the camp. They decided to give the photos to the boys of the Poschacher Kommando. This labor brigade, made up of young Spanish teenagers, worked in quarries outside the camp itself. During the last months of the war, the brigade had almost no direct supervision by the SS. Over time, the boys had become friendly with Anna Pointner, an Austrian socialist who lived near their work site. She frequently tossed extra food to the boys and eventually confided her political views to them. Feeling they could trust her, the boys asked whether she would be willing to hide some small parcels for them.

Two boys, named Jacinto Cortes and Jesus Grau, whose job it was to bring food to the Kommando in hampers, gradually transferred the entire archive hidden in these lunch hampers. Anna Pointner then hid the photos in a crevice in her garden wall.

After the war, Boix photographed the liberation with a confiscated German camera. He retrieved the camp photographs, which he later published. Boix testified at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg regarding photographic evidence from Mauthausen.

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Some 7,000 of the Spanish Republicans became prisoners in Mauthausen; more than half of them died in the camp.

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A graphic novel adaptation telling the story of Francisco Boix titled “Le Photographe de Mauthausen” was published by Belgian publisher Le Lombard, written by Salva Rubio and pencilled by Pedro J. Colombo, in 2016.

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May 1944 Gestapo raid in Hamburg’s Chinatown- The forgotten victims

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This is a little known story which took place on the 13th of May 1944. The victims were Chinese citizens, not tortured and killed by Japanese but by the Gestapo in Hamburg,Germany.

It requires a lot of imagination to recollect the past history that the Schmuckstraße as the center of a lively Chinese district of St. Pauli. Today only two houses of that time are still standing with an emptied site next to it, nothing remained or reminds the once lively Chinese district that connected close between Talstraße and Grosse Freiheit, one of the popular street in the red light district of St. Pauli, Hamburg.

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In the early 20’s, a small Chinese colony had formed in Hamburg as a result of the employment of Chinese in the German merchant shipping. Soon Chinese infrastructure were arisen in some of the European’s harbor cities. The Chinese have settled down there and opened up restaurants, Marine equipment stores, laundries. At that time, it had as many as about 2000 Chinese living in Hamburg.  They were hard-working, well-educated, went to dance and sports clubs, some were married to German women and had children with them.


The harmony living with one another were ended abruptly when the Nazis came. 165 Chinese were detained on 13 May 1944, in the so called “Chinese action” under the pretext of collaboration with the enemy. In the Langer Morgan labor camp in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg, 17 of them died. All that remains today of the camp is a plaque.

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More then a 100 people died in the camp due to inhuman conditions.

One of the Chinese victims was Woo Lie Kien  He died in the Allgemeinen Krankenhaus Barmbek(General Hospital Barmbek) as result of torture by the gestapo on the 23rd of November 1944.

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Many of the Chinese left Germany for America or have gone back to their homeland China eventually as the 2nd World War ended. A few stayed back in Hamburg , leaving a fogotten chapter of Hamburg History behind